Tips to Help Your Child Prepare for Music Festival Auditions

Jane Knox Mills
Parents and guardians can support their student in preparing for regional audition in various ways. Here are some suggestions:
  • Encourage regular practicing of the audition music as soon as it is available. 
  • Help your student to find recordings of the music to listen to. Recordings can be found on line at, You Tube, Amazon Music, Smart Music, or a store like Barnes and Noble.
  • Encourage your student to look at the rubrics. Adjudicators for band instruments typically grade tone, intonation, articulation, dynamics, tempo, beat, rhythm, note accuracy, phrasing, and ornamentation.  String players are typically judged on bowings, including the bow hand, bowing style, bow divisions, tone, intonation, note accuracy, phrasing, rhythm, tempo, vibrato and dynamics.  Vocal students are typically judged on pitch, tone, intonation, phrasing, tempo, rhythm and dynamics.  Jazz students are typically judged on tempo, tone, intonation, note accuracy, rhythm, dynamics, articulation, jazz style, improvisation and phrasing. Specific rubrics and audition information can be found HERE
  • Once a student knows the music, have him/her play it in front of peers, parents, siblings, or other students to simulate the experience of playing under pressure. Do it several times. Often it gets easier and easier for a student to play in front of others, which should make the audition easier. 
  • Take the pressure off the first year auditioner. Tell the student to do their best but just do this first audition for experience. Often, the first-year student is a sixth grader competing against more experienced eighth graders. Many of my students have made regionals for the first time in 8th grade after reflecting and learning from feedback given at prior auditions and working hard to prepare their auditions. 
  • If the student’s music teacher offers extra help, sign up for as many sessions as possible. If signing up for extra help is too challenging with your schedule, encourage your student to ask his/her teacher if he/she would be willing to critique a video of your student playing or singing the audition piece.
  • Consider having your student take private lessons. IDS offers private lessons with a talented faculty after school. Contact Laura Jalinsaks at for additional information if you are interested.
  • For instrumentalists, consider upgrading your student’s mouthpiece, head-joint or instrument. Part of the audition includes a grade for tone and intonation. Students need to know how to produce a good tone, but better equipment can also help the student with tone production and intonation. It’s best to avoid changing equipment within two weeks of the audition as students need time to adjust
  • For students who play with reeds it is essential to make sure the student has at least two “audition” reeds. Every reed plays differently. Since the cane which reeds are made out of is grown, there is no way to make a consistent reed so I encourage students to get a box of reeds or several oboe or bassoon reeds to try out and see which ones have the best tone, intonation, and are able to tongue well. Put the reeds in order from best to worst and mark the backs of each reed with a number. The top 4 reeds should go to the audition.
  • On the day of auditions:
    • Students should arrive with their original copies of music.
    • Woodwind players should make sure they have their reeds and swabs and their instruments are swabbed out.
    • Brass players should make sure all valves or slides have been oiled, their spit has been emptied, and they remember to bring valve or slide oil to their auditions. Students should carry the oil tightly sealed in their pockets in case it is needed again.
    • String players should double-check that no strings have slipped prior to walking into auditions and it can’t hurt to have a set of spare strings should a string break.
    • Parents can help by checking with their child that nothing is forgotten on the day of auditions and that their student has all the supplies that are needed for their instrument prior to the audition day.
    • Wind players should warm up only a little in the morning, so mouths are not tired for the audition. 
  • Encourage your student to get a good night’s sleep prior to the audition. 
  • Make sure to arrive exactly when requested by the music teacher so the student has plenty of time to do a small warmup and find their room.
Support from a parent or guardian can go a long way in aiding the student in having a positive audition experience. Best of luck to all of the auditioners out there!